In the aftermath of the devastating mass shooting in San Bernardino, we find many reactions-of fear, mourning and, naturally, a questioning of current gun control policies. Though the tragedy of this shooting and the others like it can hardly be pared down to gun control concerns, it is a vital question for the protection of both future lives and the protection of rights as well as safety.
There are really two lenses for the gun control perspective of the shooting: one giving weight to the National Rifle Association's (NRA) argument, and the other only furthering the views of gun control advocates. The NRA lens poses the following questions:
- What if there had been an armed guard at the office in San Bernardino? It could have prevented the entire shooting in the first place.
- Along the same line: What if some of the victims or others present had been armed? Could they have stopped the two shooters?
- And, a common argument: Shouldn't the "bad guys" with guns be stopped by "good guys" with guns?
The shooter at the Planned Parenthood clinic didn't enter until after the armed guard had left the building; conversely, at the Columbine High School massacre, there was an armed school resource officer present and yet he was unable to prevent the deaths of 12 students. According to Pete Blair, a criminal justice professor at Texas State University: "We've seen most of these shootings occur at places that don't have armed security guards...But then most places in the country don't have armed security guards, so it's hard to prove that that's the decisive factor."
And in the pro gun control perspective:
- How can we allow the "bad guys" to even be armed?
- If safety were based on the number of guns per capita, wouldn't America be the safest country in the world?
- Why arm everyone, when the few specialized safety personnel already are armed?
The Supreme Court was faced with a relevant case challenging an ordinance from a suburb of Highland Park, Chicago. The local ordinance bans the sale or possession of semiautomatic guns that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The justices turned down the Second Amendment challenge with a 7-2 vote. To some, the decision correctly reflects the rising numbers in mass shootings and an attempt to prevent; to others, it arbitrates what is an incontestable right. Either way, it does appear to "give the green light" to states and localities in gun control decisions. To justice Clarence Thomas, this "relegates the Second Amendment to a second-class right".
There is no easy solution, but the tragic loss of lives in brings a certain clarity: the greatest concern we face is not one side or the other winning, but protecting the lives of innocent people, such as those of our neighbors in San Bernardino.
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